Study Guide

This Is Spinal Tap Art and Culture

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Art and Culture

FAN: It's like you become one with the guys in the band. I mean there's...there's no division, you just...the music just unites people with the players.

We hear this line at the very beginning of the movie, and it's a perfect introduction to the concept that Spinal Tap's music is art. No matter what you think of the quality, if people connect with it—if it moves them, or if they feel it speaks to them in any way whatsoever—then it is, at least on some level, art. Their lyrics must seem especially poignant if one happens to live on a sex farm.

MARTY: Let's talk about your reviews a little bit. Regarding "Intravenus de Milo": "This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of musical invention within. The musical growth rate of this band cannot even be charted. They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry."

NIGEL: That's, that's nitpicking, isn't it?

Any artist has to be prepared to take criticism. Virtually no work or individual is universally adored, which means there is always going to be somebody who hates everything you do and gets paid to say so. In the case of Spinal Tap, they probably get more than their fair share of such criticism (even if it is deserved). Instead of letting reviews like this one get to them, however, they tend to ignore them, or be confused by them, or flat-out change the subject. These folks have familiarized themselves with the tools of artistic survival.

IAN: I mean if we had all you guys tied up, that probably woulda been fine.

Art and controversy tend to go hand-in-hand, and here Ian attempts to offer an alternative album cover image that might not have aroused such furor. He's probably dead wrong, but you have to applaud him for trying.

NIGEL: Yeah, it's part of a...trilogy really, a musical trilogy I'm doing, in D minor, which I always find is really the saddest of all keys really. I don't know why, but it makes people weep instantly.

Many musicians, actors or other artists who carve out a career for themselves creating work that isn't especially deep eventually get the itch to challenge themselves, as well as their fans' expectations of them. It seems Nigel is getting that itch, and wants to blow people's hearts, as well as their minds.

MARTY: Do you feel that playing rock'n'roll music keeps you a child? That is, keeps you in a state of arrested development?

DEREK: No... no... no, I feel, it's like, it's more like going, going to a national park, or something, and there's, you know, they preserve the moose and that's, that's my childhood up there on stage is that moose, you know?

We're not going to act like we have a clue what Derek is talking about here. Like, we could hazard a guess, but we'd only be guessing.

The great thing about music, though, is that whatever it means to you, that's totally cool. No one else can tell you what it should make you feel or think, or how it should represent your childhood. And, if it does represent your childhood, what animal form it might or might not take.

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